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The 2015 AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting was a resounding success, with 4,225 attendees from 62 countries. Despite the unseasonably chilly Orlando temperatures, the setting provided a warm, friendly environment for networking throughout the week, and many members left the hotel to enjoy the nearby dining area to continue their scientific and section discussions. As we all know, the networking that occurs during the annual meeting is as valuable as the information presented in the scientific sessions.
A brief summary of the Orlando meeting follows. There were eight Academy-wide breakfast sessions, three luncheons, 24 workshops, and three special sessions that effectively reflected the theme of Celebrating the Forensic Science Family set by then-President Daniel Martell. The Evening Session will be remembered for years as the presenters incorporated the topic of “Keep It Simple, Stupid” into costumes of the rock band KISS to provide both an entertaining and educational session. The well-attended Plenary Session allowed for different perspectives of cognitive bias to be presented and lively discussion followed. The Academy Cup permitted collegial competition among sections to demonstrate their historical knowledge of the Academy and forensic science. Congratulations to the General Section for being awarded the Cup this year! The YFSF celebrated its 20th anniversary with a session highlighting past accomplishments, current successes, and future endeavors. Eighty-three students along with their chaperones attended the Student Academy to participate in the hands-on activities that allowed them to learn about the disciplines represented by each section of the Academy, hopefully sparking their interest in pursuing science. There were more than 900 oral and poster presentations. Nine sections incorporated multidisciplinary sessions into their oral platform. Several affiliate meetings also occur during the annual meeting week that take advantage of the presence of many of their members. Lastly, the first National Standards of Science and Technology (NIST) Scientific Area Committee (SAC) meetings were held to educate the forensic community of efforts being put forth to strengthen the forensic sciences.
If you were not able to attend the meeting in Orlando, you can still take the time to reach out to your forensic mentor to let him or her know how much their guidance and support means to you. Drop them a handwritten note or take them to lunch. Take a moment to celebrate them in some manner so that they are aware that their efforts were essential to your career and success.
The 2016 meeting theme identified by President Victor Weedn, Transformation: Embracing Change, provides multiple opportunities for members to address the many activities that are currently going on at the federal level. The Academy is invested and well represented in NIST efforts. The upcoming year will be busy as the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSACs) work to develop best practices and standards to be vetted through Standard Development Organizations (SDOs). These efforts will be the cornerstone to future forensic practices and, thus, are worthy of presentation at the 2016 meeting. Engage in multidisciplinary discussions to ensure that the proposals being put forward by the OSACs accurately reflect the discipline involved. Use these discussions to develop workshops, oral, or poster presentations. This is the time for you to get involved and ensure that your voice is heard! And, of course, ongoing research and findings along with case studies are important educational components to a successful annual scientific meeting.
A new requirement for Academy-wide sessions will be implemented for 2016. A minimum of two active presenters must be included in the Special Session submission. Traditionally, one presenter has been accepted. The inclusion of two presenters is designed to prevent a session from being canceled at the last minute if one presenter is unable to attend due to circumstances beyond his/her control, such as weather. The cancellation of sessions is problematic on many fronts.
As spring looms on the forefront, start preparing for your abstract submission to allow time to prepare a clear and concise summary of your proposed presentation. As you are reminded time and again, the August 1 abstract submission deadline is firm. Ninety-nine percent of abstract submissions occur during the final week. To ensure that you have all the necessary information, research the online abstract form before the deadline so that you are prepared to hit the submit button. Your abstract must be 400-700 words and will be included in the Proceedings of the AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting. The Proceedings are searchable on the Internet and referenced, so be sure that your abstract provides an accurate synopsis of your scientific research and findings or case study.
The current forensic climate is exciting. Program Chair Andrew Baker and I look forward to working with the Academy staff and other program committee members to develop an outstanding program that is reflective of the evolving forensic arena in Las Vegas, February 22-27, 2016. Please join us in making that happen. The quality of the overall program is dependent upon member participation with abstract submissions. Start thinking of your contribution now!